Qantas (QF, Sydney Kingsford Smith) says it is reviewing the timing of the planned resumption of its non-stop flights from Perth Int'l to London Heathrow and Rome Fiumicino following the Western Australian (WA) government’s decision to indefinitely delay the reopening of its borders.

The airline is currently operating flights to London from Darwin, but was planning to return to WA in late March, while planning a new service from Darwin to Rome in June. In a statement, Qantas identified the delayed WA border re-opening as a swing factor on its forward expectations. "Timing to reinstate Qantas’ Perth-London route, which is currently operating via Darwin and was due to return to WA in late March 2022, is under review," it confirmed.

Qantas' dilemma was reinforced by Chief Executive Officer Alan Joyce. In an interview with Skynews, he criticised WA Premier Mark McGowan for hitting the pause button on restart plans. "We're starting a new Perth to Rome service in June but [there is] no real certainty of whether Western Australia will be open by then," he remarked. He said the delay was costing Qantas millions of dollars in cancellations and called on McGowan to commit to a re-opening date.

"If they don't open up or give us surety that they're going to open up by then, we will continue the services through Darwin and we'll obviously have to look at whether we'll put the Rome service through Darwin if we don't get certainty by the middle of the year," he said.

WA was due to reopen on February 5 after reaching a 90% double dose vaccination target but McGowan has defended the delay, saying it would be "reckless and irresponsible" to open on that date in light of Omicron fatalities in the rest of Australia.

Meanwhile, the Qantas Group’s total international capacity for the third quarter of FY2022 is forecasted to fall from 30% to around 20% of pre-COVID levels. “This reduction is driven by increased travel restrictions in countries like Japan, Thailand, and Indonesia and is mostly impacting Jetstar Airways' leisure routes. Other markets – such as London, Los Angeles Int'l (USA), Vancouver Int'l (Canada), Johannesburg O.R. Tambo (South Africa), and India continue to perform well,” it said in a statement.

Qantas’ domestic capacity has also been impacted by the extended border closure in WA. As a result, the Group has reduced its planned domestic capacity by 10% from February 5 through to March 31. “This is calculated on an available seat kilometre basis and reflects the long sector lengths of transcontinental flights,” it said.

Although only a fraction of its pre-COVID levels, Qantas maintains core connections between Perth and the rest of Australia, with up to 15 flights per week from Sydney Kingsford Smith, Melbourne Tullamarine, Adelaide, Brisbane Int'l, and Darwin.

The group said it would provide an assessment of the financial impact at its half-year results in late February, by which time a clearer picture would have emerged on actual demand levels and potential loosening or tightening of travel restrictions in countries. No material adjustments had been made to capacity expectations for 4Q22.